PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It was almost a monumental night for the Southern men’s basketball team.
In the end, however, the Jaguars just ran out of steam.
Going up against Providence on its home floor, Southern erased a nine-point halftime lead and tied the score with about eight minutes remaining, but couldn’t keep up with the Friars in the closing minutes of a 59-53 loss at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Mike Celestin scored 18 points and Derick Beltran had 12 for the Jaguars (1-3), who shot 34 percent from the floor and nearly posted what would’ve been one of the biggest upsets of the young season.
“You might say it’s a moral victory, but our guys are not saying that, and I’m not saying that,” first-year coach Roman Banks said. “That being said, I don’t know if I could ask for a better effort tonight. I am satisfied with the way we competed, I’ll say that. ... We had our chances in the second half right there to go up a couple possessions. We had some good looks, and we just didn’t make them.”
Quinton Doggett added 13 points for Southern, but he and point guard Jameel Grace both fouled out in the closing minutes.
The Friars (4-0) held on despite shooting only 27 percent from the field.
Tuesday’s game was the second leg for both teams in the South Padre Island Invitational, which begins at host sites, then moves to coastal Texas later this week.
Southern will face Florida A&M at 11 a.m. Friday in the South Padre Island Convention Center.
Tuesday’s game was another case study in diligence and passion from the Jaguars, who were outclassed in recent losses to Texas A&M and Rice, but played to the final horn in both games.
This time, SU held the Friars to 29 points in the second half and almost matched its larger, more athletic opponent in the rebounding department. Providence ultimately owned a 48-38 advantage.
The Friars got 18 points from Gerard Coleman, 13 points from LaDontae Henton and 10 points from Vincent Council.
Providence made the most of its time at the free-throw line, going 32-for-47. Southern was 9-for-12 at line.
“I’ll just say we’ve got to stop fouling as much,” Banks said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and play just a little better on defense. But I don?t want to take attention away from our defense. We played well tonight.”
The Jaguars trailed by nine points at halftime, 30-21.